The NCAA’s deadline for players to withdraw from the NBA draft and return to school has come and gone, with several moves made that have the potential to shape the 2023–24 season. The biggest news of the day was ’22–23 National Player of the Year Zach Edey announcing his return to Purdue, but the Boilermakers center wasn’t the only high-profile player who made a stay-or-go decision.
Here’s a look at the biggest winners and losers of the draft decision deadline.
Edey’s return to school gives the Boilermakers a chance to turn around this past season’s March misfortune. Edey’s decision came down to the wire, and NBA teams were highly interested despite his mobility limitations. But in the end, a return to Purdue to try to further cement his legacy as an all-time great college player makes plenty of sense. Matt Painter hasn’t overhauled his roster in the offseason, but did add some burst in the backcourt with Southern Illinois transfer Lance Jones, and returns Braden Smith and Fletcher Loyer to go along with Edey.Illinois
The Illini spent much of the spring quietly confident they could retain star wing Terrence Shannon Jr., but reeling in Coleman Hawkins for another year makes this a slam dunk for Brad Underwood & Co. Shannon should be among the best players in the nation this season after averaging 18 points per game in 2022–23, and Underwood did a nice job this spring adding more shooting and ball-movers around Shannon. Plus, Hawkins could create some interesting looks for opposing teams as a small-ball center next to Oregon transfer Quincy Guerrier and is one of the best passing frontcourt players in the nation.Virginia
Reece Beekman’s stay-or-go decision was one of the truly 50-50 ones on the board, and his decision to head back to school gives Virginia a say in the ACC title race. Beekman’s offensive game didn’t take the big step some expected in 2022–23, but he’s one of the better defenders in the sport and headlines a revamped backcourt for the Cavs that also features rising sophomore Isaac McKneely and Andrew Rohde (St. Thomas). For a system as reliant on continuity as Tony Bennett’s, getting back Beekman with four other starters moving on is much-needed.Creighton
Ryan Kalkbrenner and Trey Alexander had the Bluejays sweating this week. Getting both back solidifies Creighton as a potential top-10 team and Big East contender. Alexander was among the better prospects to return to school, but has the chance to boost his stock with more on-ball reps as a junior and rise in what is perceived as a weak 2024 class. Kalkbrenner should also have an elevated role offensively and looked good stretching the floor in his pro day in May. If highly touted Utah State transfer Steven Ashworth is as advertised, this team has as much upside as the ’22–23 team that reached the Elite Eight.Florida Atlantic
The Owls’ chances of replicating last year’s 35-win fever dream of a season went up exponentially with the official returns of Johnell Davis and Alijah Martin. Davis was impressive at the G League Elite Camp in May, but both players have a chance to boost their stock with another strong year for a team that will have plenty of eyes on it this season. The buzz of running it back from last season combined with the school’s move up to the AAC will give Davis and Martin a huge platform in 2023–24. This also means, remarkably, that Dusty May’s team didn't lose a single player to the draft or transfer portal this spring.Syracuse
Getting star freshman Judah Mintz back after it appeared he was pro-bound earlier in the draft process is a major win for Adrian Autry in his first year at the helm of the Orange. Mintz put up big numbers in an otherwise forgettable season for Syracuse, averaging more than 16 points and four assists per game. If he improves as an outside shooter, he has a real chance to build his stock ahead of the 2024 draft, and the Orange have surrounded him with more talent by adding Notre Dame transfer JJ Starling as a backcourt running mate.
No school had a worse day than Kentucky, which lost both Oscar Tshiebwe and Chris Livingston and isn’t out of the woods yet with Antonio Reeves, who is reportedly considering transfer options. Tshiebwe is the biggest loss, a former National Player of the Year winner who waffled all offseason about a potential return and in the process left Kentucky in a difficult spot recruiting potential replacements. Meanwhile, Livingston was a guy John Calipari seemed excited about developing long term.
These moves leave the Wildcats in a rather precarious position as the calendar flips to June. Kentucky currently has just eight scholarship players on its roster: Five freshmen from the nation’s top-ranked recruiting class, two little-used sophomores and Reeves, whose status is still a question mark. There’s certainly talent there, but the Wildcats are in the rare position of needing multiple plug-and-play pieces this late when few are available.Missouri
It always seemed like an uphill battle to keep star forward Kobe Brown for his fifth season of eligibility, but Brown officially made the jump to the NBA on Wednesday. A key part of Dennis Gates’s successful first season in Columbia, Brown’s shooting and playmaking ability really took off in Gates’s up-tempo offense, and he could have been in for a huge season had he returned. Brown did profile as a likely second-round pick with a chance to get a guaranteed contract, though, and prospects of that caliber that return to school are few and far between.
Gates did his work in the portal early, adding Tamar Bates (Indiana), Caleb Grill (Iowa State), John Tonje (Colorado State) and Jesus Carralero (Campbell). All four should be able to contribute, but this roster currently lacks top-end talent. Plus, losing Brown leaves an already-thin frontcourt in even more dire straits with few available options to fill that hole.Northwestern
The Wildcats getting Boo Buie back for his extra year of eligibility makes this offseason a net positive, but losing Chase Audige at the draft decision deadline is a blow to their hopes of a second straight trip to the NCAA tournament. Audige had a strong 2022–23, emerging as one of the best defenders in the country and a secondary scoring weapon next to Buie, but is turning pro despite not being projected to get drafted. Chris Collins did add Princeton transfer Ryan Langborg this offseason, who should slot in at the shooting guard spot to replace Audige.Arkansas
Arkansas did get Devo Davis back, but on the whole it’s hard to call decision day a positive one for the Hogs. Keeping Jordan Walsh was never overly likely, but the options for Eric Musselman to fill his spot at combo forward are rather limited at this point. The best possible hope was five-star recruit Ron Holland, who coincidentally announced Wednesday his commitment to play for G League Ignite rather than the college route. Arkansas still has an extremely talented roster (particularly in the backcourt), but one more piece could have put this team over the top.UConn
There’s no replacing Andre Jackson, an incredibly unique player and the linchpin of the Huskies’ run to the national title in 2022–23. Jackson’s play in March pushed him into the first-round conversation, and that potential was too good to pass up. The Huskies did get Tristen Newton back at point guard, which keeps them in the top-10 mix for next season, but the defense and passing ability without needing many plays drawn up for him that Jackson brought will be missed dearly.